“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
– Rev 2.2-5
Some of the most clear and definitive teaching we get from Jesus about the nature of salvation and God’s expectation of us as believers comes from the first few chapters of Revelation. One of today’s hot topics is legalism vs cheap grace: the legalist attempts to earn salvation through deeds and the cheap grace adherent defames Christ and disgraces salvation by continuing in sin for freedom’s sake. But Jesus says both the heart and actions must be right. More specifically, the actions must be right because the heart is right. Jesus praised the Church at Ephesus for their obedience and perseverance: They were standing firm in the midst of persecution. They also did not put up with sin or false teachers, they well maintained the integrity of doctrine and Scripture. That is infinitely more than any of our testimonies – none of us have suffered persecution in the manner that they did. But yet Jesus says that they are in danger of losing His blessing because they have left their first love: Him.
They loved the mission without loving the master. They buckled down and pushed through without growing weary, but forgot to rely on Jesus and persevere in His strength. They fought for pure doctrine without praising Jesus because of the glory of the Truths contained therein!
This is more than simple legalism, however, they persevered through persecution.
So what was Jesus’ admonition? “Repent and do the deeds you did at first“. Repentance is exemplified in our actions. You cannot repent from your sins without literally stopping them. You cannot repent from a past sin without mourning it and making retribution. You cannot repent without change. But changing does not mean that you have repented. What are the deeds the Ephesians did at first? They repented and their actions of obedience were driven by love for Jesus and desire to honor Him. I can abstain from lying or stealing for my own glory or I can do it for Jesus’ glory. Or I can do it because it’s just simply the habit that I have developed. It could have started out of love for and dependence on Jesus, but after a while it just becomes a habit. That is what it means to leave your first love. To forget Jesus.
Have you forgotten Jesus? Do you rely on Him to not lie? Do you rely on Him to tell the truth? Do you rely on Him to not gossip? Do you rely on Him to preach the Gospel? Or have you developed habits?
There may come a time when you have to repent of habits. Not because the habit is inherently bad (i.e. not stealing or telling the truth), but because we no longer do it out of dependence on Him and love for Him.
Return to your first love today. Glorify Him with your words, actions, deeds and heart.